How to Choose a Workflow Management Tool to Optimize your Business

Every business has specific processes they follow to get things done.  Unfortunately, many of these processes are stored in managers’ heads or written into manuals and flow charts. This isn’t always effective and can waste time and money.

In today’s world, process management should not be complicated, rigid, or boring. Workflow management makes following processes easy, increasing collaboration and reducing errors.

The ability to create replicable systems in a crucial element that limits many marketing teams. When there are personnel changes, there aren’t strong training manuals so new personnel take a long time to train and work efficiently. Personnel changes, onboarding team members, scaling to grow can become expensive and tedious, slowing down your company’s growth potential.

What is Workflow Management?

Creating a process for workflow management is fundamental to be able to grow your business, team, or project. Workflow management is the process of mapping out and optimizing tasks that make up a workflow. A workflow system should allow you to oversee an entire project, and not only one part of a workflow. Many systems claim to be workflow management systems, but in reality they only automate or assist with a small part of processes.

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Workflow management also involves removing any unnecessary tasks, fixing areas causing delays or errors, and finding tasks/processes that could be improved. It is often surprising that people can work for a company for many years, but never really notice workflow issues, or simply consider it to be “a part of the process”. However, as soon as that workflow is broken down into individual tasks and mapped out, overlapping, bottleneck, and redundant tasks can quickly be fixed and the entire process improved.

How does a Workflow Management System Help?

A workflow management system not only allows companies to see errors in existing systems, it allows for a high level of automation and flexibility for project workflows

This means that new staff can come in, not really knowing the job, and yet be assigned to the right tasks at the right time from the beginning. Not only  that, but as they complete their tasks and mark them as done, the next tasks for them and/or someone else are automatically generated by the system. 

These workflows can then be cloned for new projects. This feature saves hours and hours on setup times. Instead of having to manually add each step, the workflow can simply be duplicated under a different name or client profile. Even if some modification is required, being able to instantly clone an entire complicated process means that it can be setup faster and with less effort.

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The flexibility part is also important.  Although some workflows are identical, some clients may require customized workflows. If a staff member is sick, workflows may also need to be paused or reassigned in an easy to manage way. Sometimes workflows need to be adaptable, simply because things don’t always run according to plan.

If there are specific points in a larger project, and these milestones need to be met by certain dates to make the project achievable, then having a milestone monitoring system can allow management to clearly see how things are progressing in complex projects, without needing to check on a “per task” level.

Automatic starting of tasks is another great feature to look out for, as it can make sure projects or segments of projects are started as soon as they are created. In this case, for example, maybe you need to start every marketing project with an effective “How-To” article. You could set that task to be started automatically for any project created, meaning a writer would be assigned the task of writing the article and the media specialist starts to find appropriate images. However, it doesn’t stop there, because as soon as that task is marked as complete, it will trigger the next step (such as editing the article). This means that every new project gets off to an immediate start, without causing unnecessary delays.

What should a Good Workflow Management System Include?

Choosing a workflow management system often isn’t easy, as there are many companies that provide various levels of workflow related services and systems. Ideally, to make your company a success, you would want a project management system to include all of these features:

1.  Easy to use interface – As even the most amazing workflow management system becomes pretty pointless, and possibly even useless, if it doesn’t have an easy to use graphical interface. The steps to create and manage workflows should preferably seem obvious, or at least easy enough to figure out that a child could do it with a bit of thought.

2.  Comprehensive – It should cover everything you need, including automating tasks, duplicating systems, and offering reporting and auditing capabilities. Of course, what you need for your company will vary by your type of business.

3.  Flexible – Duplication and adaptation of processes should be easy to create. However, flexible workflows and side-by-side task flows should also be included. Most processes include some elements that can be performed simultaneously, and so having side-by-side workflows allows for time to be saved and tasks performed at the same time (normally by separate staff members).

4.  Expandable – You are probably looking for affordability, especially if your business is new. However, as you expand, the service you choose should be able to expand with your business needs.

5.  Integrated with required platforms – Ideally cloud platforms such as Google Drive, so that the tasks can be performed anywhere and collaborated on by any assigned staff. Having the processes in the cloud allows staff more flexibility, but also allows the company more flexibility about the staff they can hire (such as contractors and freelancers).

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6.  Collaboration incorporated – Staff should be able to collaborate from within the platform, via chat, emails, and tasks. They should also get alerted to tasks, such as having notification emails sent out when a task is assigned to them or one that they assigned is completed.

7.  Progress indicators – Such as having milestone alerts as projects progress through various levels. This allows management and all staff involved to see a clear picture of how a project is progressing, how it should progress, and by when.

8.  Reports and overviews – It should be easy to gather the information on a particular task, project, or even all projects within a workflow management system. Management and staff need to be able to see what is happening in real-time, not to have to wait for reports to be generated, or worse that someone has to hand-make them.

9.  Security – Keeping information secure is key, along with allowing the access that clients and staff need to get things done. In this sense, it is vital that you can set user roles, restricting access where it isn’t needed. This also permits the use of freelancers and contractors in a secure way, where they only have access to their assigned tasks and information, and not all of your client/project details.

Are You Considering Using a Workflow Management System?

If you want you business to grow, be cost effective, and expandable, then you really should take the step towards this way of working. It can seem daunting, or maybe viewed as “not needed”, but this approach to working can revolutionize your company.

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Using effective workflows removes the need to teach new staff every step, increases productivity, saves lots of hours (that you would be paying for), and increases accuracy. Any company that is serious about their future and has workflow processes should seriously consider implementing a workflow management tool.